Hair evolution

From long locks to chic crop, via pudding bowl and blonde, let me talk you through my hair journey

Oh, my hair, my hair. Where do I begin.

Well, actually, in Thailand.

Long ago, in a Thai village far away, a younger version of myself with beautifully silky long hair was staying in an orphanage. I’d decided to pack up my things and go and teach English to children who had lost everything in the tsunami.

Whilst there, I got two major things:

  1. The most eye-opening couple of months of my life.
  2. Head lice.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. Grab some louse killer, a nit comb, and you’re good to go.

But hold on. Remember we were in the middle of nowhere. And there were no shops. Let alone a pharmacy.

The solution? Well, as the coordinator of the children’s home explained to me in pigeon English: chop, chop.

The kids gathered around me. So excited were they to learn I would soon have the same hair as them (in Thailand, all girls have to have bobs for school), they squealed and hugged one another.

“You, me, same same!” They chanted.

Well, when a large group of children who have nothing want you to cut off some hair, what can you do?

I acquiesced. Soon, my hair was lying in clumps around me. 5 minutes later, I looked like this:

396843_10150943111772031_618308137_n534004_10150683765052031_804884195_n

Well, what do you do when you get back to the UK and realise the pudding bowl look went out 30 years ago?

Blonde. Oh yes. You go blonde. Everything looks better blonde. Doesn’t it?

Unfortunately, some snooty hairdresser in Wimbledon told me my hair was “simply too dark” to ever be properly peroxide.

My dreams of being Debbie Harry for a year while my hair returned to normal length slipped through my fingers like sand.

And then I thought, you know what, these so-called professionals are just trampling my buzz.

They’ve clearly just got it in for me.

If they won’t let me unleash my inner blonde, I’ll just have to take matters into my own hands.

Several L’Oreal boxes of home dye later, I was transformed.

photo 2

Now for a while, I was happy.

However that happiness quickly became a distant memory when I realised I was going to have to dye my hair fortnightly to keep up with my comparatively black regrowth.

And then, after about 10 home dyes, my hair went dry, like straw, ew.

And then it fell out.

And then I wept. It didn’t help that a close friend chose to take me to the side and have a quiet word about how I looked “a bit Alistair Darling”.

photo 1

So, I swallowed my pride and admitted perhaps the Wimbledon salon didn’t hate me. Perhaps, all along, they’d been looking out for my best interests.

I shuffled back to the stylist and told her to fix it.

She told me she’d never seen hair so damaged.

I told her it was her fault for not doing it the way I asked in the first place. If they’d only blooming well listened, I wouldn’t have had to go my own way. I could have been blondified in a safe and competent environment and none of this would have ever happened.

She told me, periodically, that going peroxide when you are as brunette as me never works, professional assistance or none.

We agreed to disagree.

Apparently, the only thing to do was for me to go back to my original colour using semi permanent dye. By now it had been a few months, and my hair was shoulder length. I told the stylist to give it her best shot.

I don’t know whether she’d intentionally misremembered my original DARK brown colour (though I don’t see how she could have since it was the colour that caused the debate), or what. Maybe it was my comeuppance,  I don’t know.

She dyed my hair a mousy brown colour that quickly faded to field rat. I was sold some highly extortionate conditioner that did, well, nothing.

I was going to give up.

And then, like a shining guardian angel of barnets, along came Wayne.

Wayne set up Shape Hair in Teddington earlier this year, after he and his family moved here from New Zealand. The salon has been attracting great local reviews ever since.

When Wayne told me he thought he could fix my hair, I assured him he should probably take a look at it before making such a pledge.

“I think” I announced gravely, “It’s unsalvageable.”

And maybe it was. But when I came by the salon, Wayne was too polite to say. He merely commented on the “poor condition” delicately, before getting to the root (sorry), of the problem.

“It’s just got no style. It’s got no shape. It’s just… hanging there. It’s been badly done.”

At this point, I was loving the fact he wasn’t blaming me.

With a flourish, he presented me his look book and we decided on a bold new look. Chop, chop.

But this, time, I wasn’t going to look like disheveled stray dog. I was going to have a stylish crop so my hair could rejuvenate (the dead locks had to go), and return to my natural colour.

Although Wayne did talk me through what he was doing, I don’t actually know how he did it.

What I mean by this is that though I understood the technicalities, how he managed to make my barnet look THIS much better is beyond me. He also matched my hair exactly to it’s original colour, auburn streaks and all, which was impressive.

And the best bit? While I doubted it would look so sleek when it hadn’t been blow dried by a professional, I was wrong.

“You can’t be getting a blow dry every time you need to look good. My cuts are designed to look good even without professional styling” Wayne explained.

Fat chance, I thought, but, as I would later discover, my hair would end up looking good even if I let it dry naturally.

“I just have to ask you one more thing” I ventured before leaving. “Is it true that my natural colour is too dark to have gone peroxide blonde?”

“No” replied Wayne. “You just need the right hairdresser.”

I think I’ve found him.

Review: The Dance of Love, Angela Young

In this month’s Richmond Magazine Bookshelf, I review The Dance of Love by Angela Young

Don’t judge a book by its cover, they tell you. Me, I do it all the time.

And not always to flattering effect. Everything about the cover of The Dance of Love, the latest novel from Richmond’s Angela Young, made me want to avoid it: the tea-stained green background; the brown shoe that looked like clip art; the fact that it appeared to have been created using the 1999 version of Microsoft Word. Even the title deterred me, hinting at endless balls and marriages made over dinner. Everything that I loathe about Jane Austen.

How wrong can you be? For what begins by sailing too close to the winds of country homes, ponies and financially incentivised romance quickly changes tack, and we are presented with something far more complex, real and raw.

Natalie Edwardes, daughter of tea trader Sir Thomas, is a creative, exuberant young woman who wears her heart on her sleeve – much to the distaste of her neighbour, the imperious Lady Bridewell, who would prefer her to place it closer to her purse.

For Lady Bridewell, a good marriage is based on accounts. Yet this savvy matriarch’s family estate has fallen into disrepair, and despite her prestigious bloodline, the family lack the funds to bolster their titles and lands.

Resourcefully, Lady B persuades wealthy Sir Thomas to arrange the marriage of Natalie to her son Andsrie, as the girl’s dowry more than makes up for what she lacks in status.

Unaware of this, Natalie falls madly in love with Lieutenant Haffie (also an incredibly talented artist – *swoon*) during her first London season. Andsrie’s chances are nil. Only when Haffie mysteriously disappears does Natalie settle for his hapless rival, aware that he is her only hope of mending her broken heart. A son is born, and for a while, Natalie is whole again. 

Years later, however, her contentment is threatened by her old obsession, as Haffie unexpectedly returns to her life, with his wife, Edwina, in tow.

It takes the sinking of the Titanic and the outbreak of WWI for Natalie to realise where her loyalties truly lie. And we too are forced to confront the nature of our relationships, as we follow Natalie warily down her introspective path.

Bold, truthful and emotionally engaging, this book refuses to eschew plot complexities in the interests of neat, tidy endings or a spurious coherence. It is a novel that fully embraces what it is to be a wife, mother and, fundamentally, a human being vulnerable to flitting indecision and disharmony of the soul.

The Dance of Love, by Angela Young, published by Buried River Press (£8.99), is available from the Barnes, Sheen and Kew Bookshops

Compulsive Reading

I’m cover girl for Compulsive Reading this month, a fabulous magazine published by OCD UK. What an honour!

20141027-180849-65329464.jpg

Laugh like no one’s watching

Laugh like no one’s watching

20141023-193556-70556230.jpg

 

Times of India wildly misrepresent OCD

20141018-193122-70282989.jpg

I was extremely concerned to see The Times of India printing an article that misrepresents OCD in such a dangerous way.

Today, they reported that police have decided to put Sneha Swakhyar Samal, accused of a triple murder, to a psychological test, claiming his behaviour was ‘like that of a psychopath’.

Asking ‘an expert’ who professes to be a psychiatrist for comment, they published this:

‘Psychiatrists said the behaviour, observed by police in Samal, is that of an insane person. “There are people, who are suffering from obsessive compulsive disorder, characterized by intrusive thoughts that produce uneasiness, apprehension and obsessions. We learnt Samal nurtured a grudge against the doctor just because he prescribed costly tests for his daughter’s treatment. Such type of behaviour is expected from insane people,” said psychiatrist Surjeet Sahoo.’

Oh boy. Where to begin. Let’s start with talking about intrusive thoughts. Although many people are unaware of this, and believe OCD would only cause someone to obsessively tidy up or straighten things, intrusive thoughts form a major part of OCD for many people.

They are unwanted ideas, images and thoughts that pop into the mind of a sufferer and cause them huge anxiety. Very often, they are about harming other people. Someone with OCD may be plagued with thoughts of stabbing someone, or fears that they are a paedophile. An intrusive thought is not a grudge, as the psychiatrist here insinuates.

To be clear: intrusive thoughts are symptomatic of an overwhelming fear of doing something wrong. They would never lead someone to commit a crime. The anxiety at the idea of doing such a thing would cripple a sufferer in horror.

A person with OCD is characterised as being extremely anxious, and would be the last person to murder someone. Technically speaking, someone with OCD is basically at exactly opposite end of the spectrum to a psychopath. To see The Times of India linking the two is extremely worrying. Anyone who reads this article and does not have some concept of the nature of OCD will walk away with a completely inaccurate perception of the disorder.

Finally, someone who has OCD is not insane. Ok. They just aren’t. Having a mental illness does not equal insanity.

Please apologise and amend this article before any further damage is done Times of India.

I understand why you don’t understand OCD, but that doesn’t make you blameless

If I tell you OCD is a complex disorder that shouldn’t be mocked, will it mean anything to you?

If you have the illness, definitely. If you are close to someone who does, of course. But let’s say you have no personal experience of OCD. Let’s imagine you didn’t even know what it stood for ten years ago. Or, perhaps you are one of the 60,000 people who follows a twitter account called @OCDnightmares, or among the millions who tuned in to Channel 4’s latest series of Obsessive Compulsive Cleaners last week.

20141017-082604-30364998.jpg

If you fit into this category, it wouldn’t be surprising if you couldn’t understand me when I say it is wrong to laugh at OCD. How could you, when public misconception holds it to be more of a character eccentricity than a disorder – a quirky trait that will mean you just love to line things up straight, or that cleaning is your favourite hobby.

The truth is, most people who take the micky out of sufferers of OCD aren’t bullies. They aren’t monsters, sitting at home with their laptops firing out tweets about how ‘OCD about their pencil case’ they are, in the hope that someone with the disorder will see their post and weep. They might even tell you they think mental health is a pressing and important issue or that they themselves have suffered from depression, but ‘come on man, you’ve got to be able to take a joke sometimes.’

While sufferers, and I include myself here, get riled in response, it’s useful to take a minute and remember that their actions usually spring from ignorance rather than malice. Trying to explain the reality of the situation calmly will always be a better way of dealing with the problem than calling the speaker an ‘idiot w*nker’. Lots of intelligent people have misunderstood things and hurt people as a result before, and will continue to do so until the end of time. A misunderstanding doesn’t make someone inherently stupid or cruel. A stupid person is one who will not consider rectifying their error.

Here’s what I’m trying to say: if you don’t get OCD at the moment, that’s ok. I understand why you don’t understand. But, hold on, wait up. Don’t think I’m offering you a one way ticket to the shining city of ignorance. Unknowingly mocking OCD does not make you blameless, because, ultimately, ignorance is no defence. A bully is a bully whether they believe themselves to be one or not. Just because you do not understand that you have hurt someone, does not mean you have not.

This applies especially to corporations who continue to make money out of the humour surrounding OCD when they have been lobbied by mental health campaigners over their actions.

In the same way that I appreciate the general public may not understand OCD, there will be corporations who also misunderstand the disorder. Companies are, after all, run by humans. It we begin by giving them the benefit of the doubt, it’s feasible to imagine that they may misuse the word OCD out of ignorance, with no malicious intention.

In the first instance, I don’t believe the misunderstanding makes them entirely blameless, as the media and manufacturers have a duty to research an illness before turning it into a product or slogan.

But oversights do happen. The real crunch point is what happens when the issue is pointed out, the cause of offence clearly explained, and the company has to make a decision over how to respond.

At this point, I believe it’s definitely possible to right a wrong. By way of example, a company called Fred and Friends recently created a product called The OCD Cutting Board. When the problem was pointed out and carefully explained by mental health campaigners, Fred and Friends apologised and renamed their product The Obsessive Chef. Credit to them. I don’t harbour grudges. All’s forgiven.

20141017-082039-30039764.jpg

If on the other hand, the company is given the opportunity to correct the misunderstanding and doesn’t, then we have a problem.

Let’s consider the Channel 4 show Obsessive Compulsive Cleaners. The TV series has attracted huge criticism from mental health charities, sufferers and campaigners alike, yet more series continue to be broadcast, even, I might add, in OCD Awareness Week, which seems especially cruel.

20141017-082755-30475807.jpg

Hurting people by undermining the validity of their illness in ignorance is one thing. But continuing to do it once you have the knowledge that what you are doing is inducing stigma: now that’s truly malicious.

Don’t worry London, I’m never leaving you

Don’t worry London, I’m never leaving you

20141011-153800-56280670.jpg

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 121 other followers

%d bloggers like this: